Anywaa Survival Organisation, Ethiopian Anuak Development Foundation and Anuak Community Association in North America, with the strong support of international civil society and Anuak community leaders worldwide, call on the governments of Ethiopia and India to cease negotiations with Karuturi Global Ltd and to ensure that the company fully exits Gambela and other parts of Ethiopia. The governments of both these countries must hold the company accountable for the destruction to local peoples’ livelihoods, environment, bio-diversity and eco-system. We stress the importance of land and environment to indigenous peoples as sources of livelihoods, food security and sovereignty, providing farming, grazing, fishing, hunting and traditional medicines.
In 2009-2010, Karuturi Global was awarded leases on 300,000 ha in Gambela and other parts of Ethiopia for agricultural production. The investor never cultivated more than a few thousand hectares, while in neighbouring Kenya the company’s flower farm was put into receivership, and the permits were duly rescinded. In September 2017 Karuturi announced its defeat and impending departure, but it is now trying to get the Indian government to woo Ethiopian authorities to give it another chance.
Karuturi's operations in Gambela and other parts of Ethiopia have exposed the Anuak people to serious food insecurity and made them dependent on humanitarian assistance. They have lost cattle, fish stocks and wild animals due to the contamination of rivers, lakes and the environment through the use of chemicals at the company's large-scale farming operations. This has reduced and weakened their food security and capacity to protect themselves against poverty and diseases.
The local communities have realised that they are far better off without the company's investment and empty promises of employment opportunities, other economic benefits, and food security. The company has instead torn the community apart, left many hungry and homeless. Some fled their homes to South Sudan and Kenya, ruining the future for their children who are stuck in refugee camps and cannot attend school. Young girls and boys were forced to work on Karuturi's farming operations for long hours at low wages, in violation of national and international labour laws.
In addition, Karuturi's agribusiness projects have undermined the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights, as opponents to the project have been arbitrarily detained, arrested and persecuted. In 2015, Ethiopian land rights and food security activists were arrested and persecuted on fabricated charges for their efforts to attend a food security and land rights workshop. A protracted court case continues to drag on against food security, land rights and environmental campaigners in Ethiopia.
Karuturi’s land investment project resulted in the clearance of vast tracks of land with huge impacts on forests, bio-diversity, and eco-systems, such as the pollution of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The local people who strongly opposed the activities of Karuturi Global in Ethiopia, demand the return of lands to the communities and for the government of Ethiopia to recognise their customary land rights and their traditional environmental management knowledge. Since the company stopped its operations at its farm in Gambela in early 2014, the local people say there has been a rapid environmental recovery, with the growth of natural vegetation and the return of wild animals.
We therefore call on the governments of Ethiopia and India to dismiss the company’s claims over the land that belongs to the local communities under customary land rights and support their efforts to regain control over their lands and resources.
Anywaa Survival Organisation, ASO
Ethiopian Anuak Development Foundation, Australia
Anuak Community Association in North America, USA
Adivasi Women's Network, India
Africa Faith & Justice Network, US
AMIHAN (National Federation of Peasant Women), Philippines
Asia Indigenous People's Pact (AIPP), regional
Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), regional
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Liberia
Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches - TANY, Madagascar/France
Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), international
Community Alliance for Global Justice, US
Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD), Ghana
Faith and Justice Network, Liberia
Food Sovereignty, Ghana
Ghana National Convergence Platform on Land and Natural Resources Struggle, Ghana
Grassroots International, US
Indigenous Peoples Forum, India
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Philippines
Local Futures, US/UK
National Farmers Union, Canada
Oakland Institute, International
Office for Mission and the Pontifical Mission Societies
Organisation Ivoirienne pour la paix (OIP), Côte d'Ivoire
People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), international
Réseau Foi et Justice Afrique Europe, France
The Corner House, UK
US Food Sovereignty Alliance, US
World Rainforest Movement, international